Indonesia calls off operation to retrieve ferry victims in Lake Toba

The operation to find the ferry and retrieve the victims has faced numerous technical and logistical hurdles. PHOTO: ANTARA FOTO VIA REUTERS

JAKARTA (REUTERS) – Indonesia said on Monday (July 2) it was calling off a two-week operation to retrieve the bodies of nearly 200 passengers thought to have drowned in one of the world’s deepest volcanic lakes.

The overcrowded wooden ferry capsized during a storm on June 18 in Lake Toba, which is around 450m deep, as travellers were heading home after the Eid holiday marking the end of the Muslim fasting season.

Eighteen passengers survived, three were confirmed dead and nearly 200 are missing.

The operation to find the ferry and retrieve the victims has faced numerous technical and logistical hurdles – dangerous currents and cold, murky water far deeper than any scuba diver can go – in a lake that has never been completely surveyed.

Video footage taken last week using a remotely operated underwater vehicle showed human remains, motorcycles and ropes from the ferry at a depth of 450m.

Rescue spokesman Muhammad Yusuf Latif confirmed that the search operation would end, adding that an official statement would likely be made on Tuesday.

“We’ve already had face-to-face discussions with the families of the victims (on) the difficulties faced in the field (and) reasons why we won’t continue; why we want to end it,” Latif said by telephone. “They understand why we’re stopping.”

According to media reports, a monument will be erected by the government in memory of victims.

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